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Sexy Little Girls

The sexualization of young girls seems to be a disturbing trend in this country, and it leaves me deeply concerned about the types of things that will be marketed to my daughter as she gets older. Sadly, I didn't even have to wait that long to discover inappropriate girls clothing, while searching for my daughter's first bathing suit. I was shocked that a leopard print string bikini was being sold for girls ages ONE through five. When I was a kid, my one piece suits had rainbows and hearts on them. Not that those suits don't still exist, but I found my brow furrowing as I sifted through more and more sexy suits for toddlers. Ultimately, we decided to skip the bathing suit and put her in nothing but an AppleCheeks cloth swim diaper, which some may argue exposes more than a string bikini. However, there are undeniable associations between sex and things like animal prints, string bikinis, fishnet stockings, thigh highs, short skirts/shorts, etc... I would think nothing of seeing a 2 year old wearing only a diaper, or a six year old in a short jumper. Yet I look at most of the young girls I see around my town, and many are wearing shorts that in my day we called "Daisy Dukes," because the super sexy (adult) character on Dukes of Hazzard always wore incredibly short shorts. I suppose when I think of it, there was a trend in the early 80's for short gym shorts with white piping up the side (for both guys and girls), but the socks pulled up to the knees that often accompanied them just doesn't scream "Sex!" to me. It just seems that the clothing currently being offered to tweens and younger has a very different tone than it did back then.

 

After seeing a photo last Halloween that a friend posted of sexy tween costumes, I decided to fish around and see what's out there. I make my daughter's costumes, as my parents did for me. In 4th grade I was a tree - encased in cardboard that had a bark print on it, with small branches sticking out of my waist. In 5th grade I was a ladybug, with a baby tub covered in red fabric and painted with black dots strapped to my back, and some stuffed black socks dangling from my shirt. Even in junior high I remember Halloween being about fun and creativity - not how sexy I could look. When I searched that night, I found so many appalling costumes, many marketed to girls as young as 4 years old, that are not a far cry from a french maid outfit. This one from Party City, complete with a laced up corset and fishnet stockings, happens to be made for girls as young as 10 years old.

 

I'm not exactly sure when or how this happened, but I'm so saddened by it all. Clearly these things are being prominently marketed because there must be some parents out there actually buying them. There are so many choices as a parent that while I may not practice them myself, I will happily dismiss as every parent's right to decide. Whatever the case - video games, cell phones, sugary foods...I will usually say "to each his own"....EXCEPT in this instance. Sexualizing young girls is NOT acceptable to me in any way, shape or form, and I will unabashedly declare it.

 

I would by no means consider myself a conservative, puritanical sort. I'm an atheist who'd like to think that I'm explicitly liberal by nature, and I am perfectly fine with educating children at a young age about sex. Yet the implications of dressing young girls this way infuriates me to the core. There is the obvious reasoning that children do not need any help attracting pedophiles and sexual predators, but there's so much more than that. What sort of message does it send to an 8 year old that it's acceptable to exploit her not yet developed body and show it off? Abercrombie and Fitch came under fire a while back when they introduced a padded bikini for the 7-8 year old set. Just what every girl needs! A complex that their breasts aren't large enough and their body isn't good enough before they even start, much less finish developing! Two years ago parents were livid when JCPenney was selling a shirt that said, "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me." How is this any different? I guess it's alright to send your child out into the world wearing shorts that from a distance look like underwear because they don't actually say on them "My mom thinks the only thing that I've got going for me is my body, so I should show it off. Here ya go boys!"

 

In an age where women are being forced to fight resurfacing battles over reproductive rights, isn't it time we start empowering our daughters to be strong, intelligent women instead of encouraging them to be sexual objects? I know that's what I intend to do with my own daughter, and I can only hope that over the next few years this trend begins to subside, rather than get worse. Sadly, I'm not entirely convinced that will happen.

 


 

400Amy Serotkin is dedicated to sustainable living and finding ways to eliminate toxins in her home.  She is an avid organic gardener and cook, and is always looking for more ways to challenge herself to lessen her family's ecological imprint. 

 

Her website, www.themindfulhome.blogspot.com, shares with consumers the information she's found on toxins and eco friendly products that help eliminate disposables or toxin exposure.  She also hopes to highlight smaller retailers, crafters and manufacturers.

Comments (12)

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Look! A Kardashian baby in a leopard print string bikini. Sigh.
http://surisburnbook.tumblr.com/image/56344475767
this has been going on for years. my daughters are 27, 23 and 20 and I have been battling Abercrombie etc for years about using their (young peoples) sexuality to increase sales. it is disgusting. but the problem with objectification of women begins in many other places and it is often mothers who perpetuate this ideology. and actually the abortion issue you refer to, is a perfect example of objectification of women. men are free to use women sexually and then have absolutely no consequence, provided the woman grabs a quick abortion to relieve them of their responsibility. here is where women are totally and unwittingly complicit. sadly, they are convinced that tossing their baby in the trash is freedom. but what they end up with is drug addiction, depression, suicide, relentless guilt, reproductive problems and a host of poor self image issues. but they had their sexual freedom. or did they? no, they did not. the man had his sexual freedom. the woman is now imprisoned with the the eternal legacy of 'the quick fix' for sexual freedom. sadly, all of this starts in the toddler departments of virtually every department store. with all of the clothing choice you mention, the message begins very early. sadly, moms buy this stuff and somehow think their baby daughters will be different, their daughters will be unscathed by this objectification. they wont be spared however, until there is a most profound, immoveable, irrevocable respect for the human being, period.
I worked at party city right out of high school in 2008. I got hired during the halloween season and I was SHOCKED at the costumes for kids and most adult women costumes were something I would never wear. I was also shocked at just being out of high school, that I was just noticing it. I remember thinking I don't remember seeing most of these costumes before when I was costume shopping in high school. Most years I didn't dress up, but my sophomore year I did with my boyfriend (now husband). We both dressed up as vampires. I DEFINITELY DO NOT remember the sexy costumes. Maybe I wasn't looking because I wasn't interested, but I totally agree. When I was working at Party City I was in shock at the costumes for the children.
It is absurd,but it is also out there. The beauty of the US is that you have choices. We have lived abroad and trust me, it is worse in most countries.
I think not supporting this type of merchandise is the best you can do. I see it as: "It is there,but I don't really care because it has nothing to do with the way we are".
Thank you so much for posting this article. You have expressed exactly, the frustration that I feel over the sexualization of children, especially little girls. As parents, we don't have to buy into popular media, culture, advertising etc. but our little ones are inundated with messaging everywhere they look. Sexualizing children is NEVER okay and these companies should be ashamed of themselves. It always makes me cringe when I see a wee one with writing on her buttocks. As women, we grow up in a culture that is obsessed with our bodies and showing our daughters AND sons that this should NOT be a focus is the best example we can portray.
Thanks for this post. As my daughter has gone from toddler sizes to child sizes, I've been increasingly alarmed by the clothing styles and messages being sold to young girls. It makes me ill to walk by the clothing racks at our local department stores and see the "sexy" clothes that are being sold for children so young. Who is buying this stuff?
I have been thinking the same thing for years! My oldest daughter just turned 14, and it has been difficult to find acceptable clothing for her since she was about 7. I also have daughters who are 9,7,and 4, and it is getting harder with each one! I want them to just be kids, to play in comfortable clothes and not worry about how they look or if they are fashionable! One trend I have noticed progressing over the years is that I used to see no difference between a boys and girls shirt or shorts in the same size, except for the usual color differences. Now a size 7 girls outfit is about HALF the size of a boys size 7...short, fitted shirts and tiny, tight shorts. So my size 7 girl really needs a 10 or 12 to fit comfortably. THis is so disturbing!
It's not just clothes! Have you seen this? I thought Zoophilia, a friend of mine thought Plushies, but whatever it is I think it belongs at the adult novelty store not at Toys R Us!
I'm posting so late here but I'm baffled by something I see for young girls, starting by toddlerhood: why does a toddler need a swimsuit bra? It just feels ridiculous to me. I ended buying a swimsuit from the boy's section for my daughter because I knew if she saw "the bra", it would be more difficult to get rid of it.
cptassie- I don't believe abortion plays into this at all. I know four women who had abortions because either a) the pregnancy was literally killing her, or b) the fetus was so severely malformed, it could not survive outside the womb. It had nothing to do with the man being involved or not.

I have been saying this about this sexualized stuff marketed at girls since I was a tween/ teen. It bothered me then as a kid, and bothers me even more now as a mom.

My dad had one conversation with my sister and me when we were tweens. It boiled down to, "Don't leave the house in anything that would make me nervous. We live in a world where people judge you by appearance. If you dress too provocatively, you'll attract the wrong kind of attention." I hear my dad's voice echoing in my head every time I go shopping for clothes, and my litmus test is, "Would my father approve of this outfit?"
Cptassie- I wholeheartedly agree with you. When I became accidentally pregnant to my boyfriend who wasn't happy about it I got given grief by some other men I knew (my flatmate at the time, etc) for refusing to have an abortion.  I was being "selfish" according to them. Another man said that because I refused to have an abortion, I must have got pregnant on purpose. It really makes me sick that these people can have that attitude.
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